State Democrats play key convention roles

Many area Democrats are convention delegates.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Members of the New Jersey Delegation will play central roles in the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
   The convention, which began Monday night and runs through Thursday, brings 4,979 delegates as well as other party faithful together to nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates for the November election. The delegates also will approve the party’s platform.
   The last time the Democratic Convention was held in Los Angeles was 1960, when John F. Kennedy received the nomination and later was elected the 35th president of the United States.
   Several of New Jersey’s delegation of 142 members, which include politicians and Democrat party members and leaders, will have prominent roles during this week’s convention.
   Former Sen. Bill Bradley, who sought the Democratic nomination for president but failed to carry any state’s primary, is scheduled to speak following remarks by the daughter and brother of President Kennedy – Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
   Jon Corzine, the Democrat nominee running for the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg, will serve as chairman of the delegation, said Tom Shea, spokesman for the Corzine campaign.
   Mr. Corzine will announce the New Jersey delegation’s vote for Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joseph Lieberman for president and vice president respectively, Mr. Shea said. Also, he’s likely to participate in fund-raisers, Mr. Shea said.
   U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13) is also expected to speak during one of the convention sessions.
   A very prominent Republican also will be in Los Angeles. Gov. Christie Whitman will be there today through Thursday to provide the GOP viewpoint at the behest of presidential candidate George W. Bush, said Peter McDonough, spokesman for the governor.
   "During the Republican convention, she was one of the most visible people as far as doing all the network and cable news shows," Mr. McDonough said. "She will continue that role in Los Angeles."
   For some delegates, the convention is a new experience.
   Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough) said he is looking forward to the experience.
   "It’s a great opportunity to meet with Democrats from all over the county," he said.
   Mr. Gusciora is challenging incumbent Republican Chris Smith for the U.S. House of Representative seat in the Fourth Congressional District.
   Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro), who was elected last year, is also making her first trip to a national convention.
   Ms. Greenstein said that while the convention may have become less relevant to the American public, the event offers a discussion of the issues and a chance for voters to understand the candidates.
   Other delegates include U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Ewing). Both of New Jersey’s senators, Sen. Lautenberg and Robert Torricelli, also will attend as delegates.